You can almost hear the pre-production meetings: "Hey, my uncle owns a lamp store! I think they have chandeliers!"
On June 3, R&H Theatricals, which licenses shows by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, begins accepting applications from schools eager to produce the show about a murderous deformed musical genius and the suggestible soprano who gladly follows him into the dank bowels of the Paris Opera House — all for the sake of love and art. The applications are for performances in the United States and Canada beginning Sept. 1. (Visit www.rnh.com.)
Anticipating the release of Phantom to schools, R&H Theatricals created a pilot project with RUG (Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group). In the 2007-08 academic year, the largely sung-through musical was presented ("in full productions and in its entirety," according to a statement) by two colleges and four high schools: Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, OH; Elon University in Elon, NC; Carroll Senior High School in Westlake, TX; Nyack High School in Nyack, NY; Fairfield Senior High School in Fairfield, OH; and Capital High School in Charleston, WV.
"Andrew's passion for bringing young people into the musical theatre is so deeply felt," stated Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization president Ted Chapin, "that he has authorized us to release Phantom to schools even while it continues to thrive on Broadway and all over the globe. We always believed that school performances of Phantom would bring out the best in each and every student, and the pilot productions we saw across America more than confirmed that belief."
Playbill.com learned that, at this time, R&H is not offering recorded orchestral tracks. Schools that license productions of Phantom will be performing with the full original orchestration. The Phantom of the Opera features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart, additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe, and a book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. It's based on the classic novel "Le Fantôme de l’Opéra" by Gaston Leroux.
Still playing across the globe in its Harold Prince-directed incarnation, the show "tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it," according to production notes. "He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command."
The score includes "Think of Me," "Angel of Music," "Music of the Night," "All I Ask of You," "Masquerade" and the title song, among others.
It continues on Broadway and in London, and in a freshly-created 90-minute version in Las Vegas. There was also a film version. The musical's sequel, Love Never Dies, recently opened in London.
Phantom won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The original London and Broadway productions are produced by The Really Useful Theatre Company Ltd. and Cameron Mackintosh.
R&H Theatricals has been representing North American performance rights to Lloyd Webber's musicals since 2001. Sunset Boulevard is the latest title to be released (for professional customers only at this time), joining Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Aspects of Love, By Jeeves and Song & Dance.